Juan Juan Almeida, 13 September 2017 — On Friday, September 8, the day the faithful celebrate the feast day of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, Hurricane Irma — a powerful category 5 storm — slammed into eastern Cuba with full force.
An onslaught of huge waves, heavy rains and hurricane-force winds caused damage that is hard to calculate and will be even harder to repair. The official press reported the loss of at least ten lives.
In response, General Raúl Castro wrote and published an article in Granma, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, entitled “A Call to Our Combative People.” In a sublime display of hypocrisy, this very fanciful piece ended with the declaration — and I quote — “Let us take up the recovery following the example of Cuba’s Commander-in-Chief, Fidel Castro.”
Clearly, solidarity is a universal moral principle that we should all practice. But not because of a sterile lecture which — in the case of this harangue by the country’s ruler — amounts to nothing more than an attempt to play upon people’s hopes.
The youngest of the Castros — a man of hooded eyes and meager talent who is also in the line of succession to the presidency of the Council of Ministers and Council of State — expressed his sympathy for the thousands of Cubans who have lost everything. These people are no doubt unaware that on the same day, September 8, as Baracoa and the entire eastern portion of the island were experiencing the destructive effects of winds that exceeded 200 kilometers per hour and caused damage to the electrical grid, homes and agriculture, the Castro family — or at least the most high-profile members of this clan — had marked the day by celebrating together at Saint Francis of Assisi Basilica and Monastery in Old Havana.
While the residents of Gibara were experiencing the desperate anguish of terrifying floods and the frustrations of being without electricity, the Castro dynasty’s hereditary princes — Alejandro, Nilsa and Mariela Castro Espín ( Raúl’s kids); Antonio, Alexis, Alex and Angel Castro Soto del Valle as well as Fidel Castro Díaz-Balart (Fidel’s sons) — were enjoying refreshing, well-made mojitos and the enchanting delights of caviar, squid and salmon with raspberry jam on thin layers of crustless bread in a charming Baroque edifice in Old Havana. The occasion was the debut and launch of a pair of books entitled “Fidel Castro and the United States” and “Raúl Castro and Our America.”
The cousins, children of the two powerful Castros, greeted each other affectionately but sat apart, at once together but separate.
It was like a sexless marriage in which, owing to certain commitments, the parties still share a bed. They allowed themselves to celebrate their good fortune dispassionately and without resentment while, at that exact moment, the unfortunate were fleeing from Irma’s impact.
In truth, I don’t know what Raúl was thinking. I believe he was probably thinking what a blessing it was to be handed by divine fiat the mantle of Commander-in-Chief.
Dr. Eusebio Leal, Havana’s official historian, presided over the event. The man in charge of compiling the data for this masterpiece, which is already being touted as the next best seller, was the astute and temperamental Colonel Abel Enrique González Santamaría who, in addition to having a doctorate in political science, is also senior adviser to the Defense and National Security Commission. He wore a light olive guayabera to the event, a color that might be described as a dull Sierra Maestra green.*
It is only natural that we should dress in subdued tones in these difficult days when people are seeing a lifetime’s worth of work taken away in seconds by the force of a hurricane.
*Translator’s note: a reference to the color of the military fatigues worn by Castro and his revolutionaries when they were operating in the mountains.